The rubber meets the road

Before I get into this post:

Tonight I took down the calendar and counted the weeks I’ve been working over here – 36. In the post of Andrea’s that I link to below she talks about a tentative deadline we have set for ourselves. I’m down to a theoretical 6 weekends. So, what I talk about below may be pressing primarily on me in light of that deadline.

Andrea has been regaling you with the trials and successes of our renovations. It may seem as of late that we are under trial. It had not escaped my attention that this minor setback occurred both within 24 hours of my writing about problem solving and on Friday the 13th. Now, I’m not particularly superstitious and since this is the first intersection of that day and something significant going awry in my life, I’m not about to dig out the aliminum foil hat.

If I were to conclude that the setback was somehow connected to my life in general, I would expect it to relate back to what I had been writing about the night before. Because I’ve found life is often like that. And what I said was:

The key to problem solving is identifying the problem.

Andrea eloquently described the symptom of the problem as follows:

I heard the toilet flush.

And then water started squirting out of the hole where the doorbell wiring is.

Andrea also mentioned that she was somewhat upset by the latest development. And that’s quite reasonable given we have been working on the kitchen for a few weeks and we were seeing the light at the end of the tunnel on the second key room in improving the prospects of a short time on the market when the time comes.

And for me, given the ongoing time away from home and the small windows of time which I have to divide between work on something like this and spending time with them while I’m home, this is one of those times when the rubber meets the road. It’s where theory meets reality. It’s the deciding point where in idea, philosophy or ideal becomes wisdom or platitude.

At the time Andrea told me, I had had a few minutes on the couch after the 3 hour drive home. So, unless it was critical that something be fixed right away, I wouldn’t have done anything about it that night. In this instance I didn’t even go look at it. Instead I mentally collected up all the things I knew about it:

  1. The waste pipe in question is a cast pipe.
  2. The toilet in question is the only fixture connected to the cast pipe above the basement.
  3. Including fittings, there is roughly 30 feet of cast pipe above the basement.
  4. Cast pipe is heavy. (I’ve since come up with a ball park estimate of about 5-600 lbs above the basement.)
  5. Because of the weight most of the cast pipe I’ve seen installed in houses relied primarily on gravity to keep it in place. Our house is no exception.
  6. The hole where the water came out is a relatively small in the wall.
  7. Until the cast pipe gets to the attic all of it is inside walls or in the ceiling/under floors.
  8. The toilet is not above the cavity where the cast pipe goes from the second floor to the basement.
  9. In addition to the cast pipe, there are 3 other unused water pipes (from the original heating system) that use the same cavity to get to the second floor.
  10. When I had the bathroom floor off a couple months ago I noticed that there was a block of wood wedged between the one side of the cavity and one of those unused pipes which might have been near the height of the hole for the doorbell..

Some initial conclusions that I drew were:

  1. It was not a small leak.
  2. Whether there had been a small leak before something had changed on Friday.
  3. The block of wood was likely partially responsible for the leak showing up in the kitchen.
  4. Removing the cast pipe or sections of it was going to be alot of work.
  5. The only way to determine how much work I was in for was to cut a hole in the wall.

And this is what I found:

If you look at the pipe in the picture you can see that it had been repaired before. The piece that is missing is a section of the flange that joined the elbow to the Tee. Given the layers of floor that I removed from the bathroom and what I had to cut through in the kitchen wall, my guess is that the last repair was on or before 1970. When our house was built 100 years ago, most things were made to last. I believe that the cast pipe is original to the house. The short of it would be that of the problems that I thought were likely this one is the best one of all of them to have to solve.

Author: Ron

Homeschooling dad of 4 (ages 27 - 14), grampy to 3, WordPress core contributor, former farmboy & software developer by profession.